BY DEAN HOCKNEY
GREENTOWN, Ind. – Bethany Neeley’s name is associated with several short lists at Eastern High School, including being one of two student-athletes to win a track and field state championship for the Comets. On Jan. 29 in the regular season finale at Tri-Central, the senior added her name to yet another short list; she joined twin sister Brittany, the Lady Comets all-time leading scorer, as one of five members of the Lady Comets 1,000 Point Club. The Class 2A No. 7-ranked Lady Comets closed the season out with a 63-43 win over the Lady Trojans to improve to 17-3.
“I think this is pretty cool, although it probably doesn’t compare to the state title in track,” she said as she compared the accomplishment with her 2012 1,600 meter run accomplishment. “I am a runner, not a basketball player. Everyone looks at us as runners. I wanted Brittany to have the special year, and I am glad I can share this with her.”
With the IHSAA Madison-Grant Sectional right around the corner, in which the Comets drew a bye, Bethany said the pressure was on to get to the magic number before the tourney started. She said that was not something she wanted hanging over the teams head as they make a serious quest for a team state title.
“The coach really put the pressure on me,” she said. “He did not want this to go into the sectionals, and they could not stop the game in the sectionals or anything.”
In fact, after racing to a 17-0 lead and a 34-17 halftime advantage, the Lady Comets came out in the second half and made sure the mission was accomplished that evening. While not making a mockery of the game, they very smoothly ensured she got the ball, resulting in Bethany scoring the first 13 points of the second half. A coast-to-coast, driving layup with 3:55 on the third quarter clock was the basket that sent her past 1,000.
“I didn’t notice at all,” said Bethany on scoring 13 consecutive Lady Comets points. “I might have forced a few shots, but I thought the second half went a lot better – it flowed better. I had some put-backs and steals, and I think Brittany should have taken a couple of shots, but I am not complaining.”
Bethany is the 35th female to break the 1,000 career points barrier in Howard County and 63rd in the 110-year history of basketball in the area. Kokomo’s Tiffany Longworth remains the all-time leading scorer in Howard County with 1,936 points, while Kokomo’s Jim “Goose” Ligon is tops on the boys list with 1,900 points. The Neeley’s are also the second set of sisters to break the 1K barrier.
“It is really special,” said Bethany of joining Taylor’s Teri and Ashli Oliver. “We knew coming into the year that Brittany would hit it, but I didn’t know if I would get here. It is just really special to be with this group of players – a real honor. I wonder how many twins have scored 1,000 points in Indiana?”
Lady Comets head coach Jeremy Dexter knows how special this accomplishment is for his star pupils. He also knows there are many differences between the identical twins who will run for Indiana University this fall.
“It is a hard number to hit,” he said. “They might be known as the Neeleys, but they are more different than one is right handed and one is left handed. It has been nice to foster a relationship between my family and these kids – they are just tremendous kids.
“It has to be noted for Bethany that for three years, she did anything we asked her to do. She is very unselfish – she is really a slashing guard but has played the post. One year she led us in rebounds, one year she led in assists, and this year she is able to advance her game a little bit because we have a better inside presence. That shows what kind of kid she is – she didn’t care throughout her career if she scored 1,000 points. If it happened, it happened. That is a testament to her.”
Neeley agrees with Dexter that she has enjoyed a varied roll during her Lady Comets career. WIOU’s Chris Lowry asked Bethany about her balanced game, considering she leads Howard County in rebounding and steals.
“It is really nice,” she said. “The first few years of high school we didn’t have anyone in the post. But now we do. I just get inside when I can and am able to battle for some rebounds. And with post players, I can get the ball inside instead of having to shoot.”
Twin sister Brittany, the Lady Comets all-time leading scorer, was all smiles after the game, and she was especially glowing when talking about her sibling joining her in the 1,000 Point Club.
“It is a huge accomplishment. Going into high school, it was a goal for both of us,” said Brittany. “But she kind of fell off the pace a little bit because she picked up the slack on all of the rebounding and free throws – she has been the unnoticed one of the two of us on the basketball court. We didn’t think this day would come until recently and I am so happy. I was going to feed her the ball until she hit that mark.”
And hit the mark she did – in a typical slashing layup from the left side. Her name now goes on the wall as one of five Lady Comets in one of the most exclusive clubs in school – and she is no stranger to exclusive clubs.